Release Date: Aug 5, 2016
Record label: Gndwire Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop
Still in her early thirties but with over a decade as a touring musician under her belt by the time of her sixth solo album, Haley Bonar brings a world-weary point of view to Impossible Dream. It's a record that's burdened with doubt in the quest for happiness, along with a certain amount of self-loathing ("I was impossible when I was beautiful"). The lyrics are accompanied by the more robust, indie rock sound she brought to her prior album, 2014's Last War.
Haley Bonar is only in her early 30s, yet to hear her tell it on Impossible Dream, you’d think her best days are long behind her. She sings about herself—or her surrogate selves in her songs, not that she makes much of a distinction—as if she’s washed up and permanently faded. On the record’s stickiest line, she manages to take a two-fer dig at both her past and present selves: “I was impossible when I was beautiful.” It’s familiar territory for the Minnesota songwriter, whose lyrics often read like tragi-comic bumper-sticker slogans.
Tempering folky tweeness with a healthy dose of misanthropy and small quantity of rage, Minnesota-based singer-songwriter Haley Bonar manages to tread the sweet/sour divide with all the effortlessness you’d expect from someone seven albums deep into an indie career. Sometimes, however, that ease can feel like conventionality, especially considering her songs never quite cross the borderline into truly arresting territory. Even when she’s singing about “shitty towns” and what sounds like “piss in your ice-cream”, Bonar is neither as unsettling as Jenny Lewis nor as volatile as Angel Olsen – two other crystalline-voiced musicians who have brought genuine edge to indie balladry.
A music veteran now of 15 years, every minute of that decade and a half for Haley Bonar has been work, building upon early self-releases, positive local press, and fortuitous opening slots for local Minnesota indie rock stalwarts Low. It’s ironic, then, with respect to Bonar’s own career now that her latest offering is titled Impossible Dream, given that the evolution begun with moving from straight ahead folk to the brawnier indie rock of 2014’s The Last War comes to its heady and full fruition here. The Last War was indeed a surprise to those following Bonar to that point and as confident as she sounded pulling such an about face off then, Impossible Dream makes its predecessor seem downright tentative.